The comeback of Keyes

November 18, 1991

Alan Keyes, the black conservative former Reagan State Department official whose late-starting challenge to Democrat Sen. Paul Sarbanes in 1988 resulted in defeat, has reappeared to challenge Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 1992.

We say "reappeared" because since February Keyes has been interim president of Alabama A&M University at the behest of Republican Gov. Guy Hunt, who was so impressed with Keyes after hearing him speak to a conservative business group that he recruited him to head the predominantly black school.

Hunt, who is himself under investigation for taking fees for preaching sermons while traveling at state expense, thought Keyes was just the man to take over A&M after the school's president was forced to resign amid sex-and-corruption allegations.

The interim job hasn't been smooth sailing, however. Keyes is presently being sued by the school's faculty for abuse of power by packing the school with pricey, out-of-state political cronies while forcing pay cuts on the existing staff.

Keyes announced his candidacy for the Senate at a kickoff ceremony in Towson last week during which he derided Mikulski for epitomizing what he called Congress' "spending spree" mentality and for representing "a failed ideology." But unless Keyes has figured out a way around the now-established pattern that blacks do not vote for conservatives and conservatives do not vote for blacks, it's hard to see how 1992 will turn out be anything other than a virtual rerun of the 1988 race.

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